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Cook Off controversy, but everyone eats well!

11 November 2019
IN yet another year of controversy, Three Rivers Medical introduced a wild card in its annual cook-off with Turanga Health, in which the two health providers celebrate healthy eating . . . and healthy competition.
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Nurses Ayla Evans (left) and Trio Barwick helped Dr Fergus Aitchetson launch Three Rivers Medical's entry into this year's hotly-contested cook-off.

We've worked well together since we launched in 2012 and it's an important way to encourage healthy living beyond the doctors' rooms.

Chief Executive Ingrid Collins.

IN yet another year of controversy, Three Rivers Medical introduced a wild card in its annual cook-off with Turanga Health, in which the two health providers celebrate healthy eating . . . and healthy competition.

During last year's barbeque-themed event, both teams tried to improve their chances by sneakily sourcing extra-special local product for their grills, with Three Rivers taking out the title on the day.

This year, Three Rivers co-owner and education co-ordinator Dr Fergus Aitcheson further turned up the dial with an unconventional take on the pizza theme, doing a Mexican hat dance all over the brief by opting to create South American quesadilla.

However, Turanga Health had its own advantage . . . as part of its healthy food programme it has been towing around a food trailer – complete with in-built pizza ovens – to service workplaces around the rohe.

Community Action on Youth and Drugs (CAYAD) co-ordinator Waldo Horomia can't calculate how many pizzas he has made over the year, “but it must be in the hundreds”. Pizza de jour for him and his team-mates was the seafood-heavy Little Mermaid.

But he wasn't the only one manning the oven, each organisation fielded four teams of three with different offerings to tempt the crowd.

“If you have a nice thin base and choose fresh, healthy toppings, then pizza can be a good meal choice,” says Turanga Health project manager Dallas Poi. “Plus, everyone loves pizza, which is why we chose them for our Healthy Food initiative.”

For Dr Fergus, though, even a little bit naughty can be a little bit nice if enjoyed in moderation. Among his team's menu of quesadilla was the Sweet Surprise, featuring marshmallows on a spread of Nutella.

Not to be outdone, Turanga Health countered with its own dessert pizza, alongside tempting offerings like chief executive Reweti Ropiha's special Tane Mahuta and Tangaroa Tuatara pizzas.

Hot competition aside, Three Rivers chief executive/co-owner Ingrid Collins says that as well as encouraging healthy eating, the cook-off is a chance for the two organisations to celebrate their ongoing relationship.

“We've worked well together since we launched in 2012 and it's an important way to encourage healthy living beyond the doctors' rooms.”

With Turanga Health smoking cessation kaiawhina (and professional entertainer) Walter “The Wiz” Walsh on board as MC for this year's cook-off, the crowd at Three Rivers' carpark were urged to try each team's menu, then vote for the Supreme Winner.

The honour went to Turanga Health, with a “landslide” 144 votes to 104, and members of the crowd were in to win, too, with a fancy pizza oven up for grabs.

That went to Te Whetu Manu, who can now make her own healthy pizza meals.